Monday, February 25, 2008

Question for John Kline :
Are Comic Books Pork Barrel Spending ?

Congressman John Kline (R-MN-02) is on a crusade against earmarks, yet the question needs to be asked if ”earmarks” are the problem or “pork-barrel spending” ?

Kline and many of his fellow Republicans have launched a media blitz challenging other Congressman not to request ”earmarks”. Obviously, it’s the basis of the November elections strategy when challengers like Dick Day, party managers like Ron Carey, and even President Bush will tell us that ”earmarks” are the problem. Politicians are salesmen – selling a message – and like any good snake oil salesman, beware of the claims. The implied target is the Democrats, yet for change to occur, Republicans can lead by example … if they are serious.

Not all ”earmarks” are pork barrel spending projects; “Earmarks” may be abused as pork barrel spending projects, but they essentially are instructions by Congress to ensure that monies are spent according to the peoples’ wishes. The Constitution under Article I Section 9 empowers Congress with the powers of appropriations.

One of the ways that the ”earmarks” campaign is being waged is through The Club for Growth RePORK Card of all members' votes on 50 anti-pork amendments. And based on that assessment, Second District Congressman Kline gets a perfect score at 100 % while First District Congressman Tim Walz fails with 0%. Ron Carey was quick to issue a Press Release to announce this meaningless assessment.

A couple of observations concerning this analysis.

First, by and large, Republicans are not so clear on this issue. In the old Tom DeLay days, the legislation moved if a Majority of the Majority (Republicans) wanted it … so if a majority in the Republican caucus approved it got put to a floor vote where the Democrats could participate. So based on that logic, how would these 50 anti-pork amendments have fared … 41 would have passed. And the votes were not overwhelming as a minimum of 80 Republicans approved of these amendments. Overall, only one anti-pork amendment did pass … it had a bare margin of 6 votes from Republicans but the Democrats had a 69 vote margin.
The GOP needs to change its act, before Ron Carey's MN-GOP should be so loudly congratulating one of its members.

Second, the RePORK Card seems to ignore the largest area of spending. The Defense Appropriation had 2,161 earmarks valued at $7.9 billion. Surely, there must be some “pork-barrel spending” in this appropriation .... I suspect that you could write a book about it … maybe even a COMIC BOOK [see below].

Now, John Kline has sworn off earmarks and has recently convinced Michele Bachmann to join him, while other members of Congress still request funding for various programs … albeit, the benefit may be for more than just the requestors home area. For example, First District Congressman Tim Walz has requested $125,000 for the Sheriffs Youth Program of Minnesota, Inver Grove Heights, MN for chemical dependency treatment services. The SHERIFFS YOUTH PROGRAMS OF MINNESOTA serves various locations throughout Minnesota (Austin, Hayward, Mankato, Isanti, Waverly, Winona, St. Cloud, and Rochester) which means they serve Bachmann, Oberstar and Walz districts.

Are programs that treat chemical dependency important ?
The day after Bush’s State of the Union (during which he complained about "earmarks"), he visited the Jericho Program,where he said, "Addiction is hard to overcome. As you might remember, I drank too much at one time in my life." The Jericho Program is part of Bush’s earmarked programs having received over $1.3 million in federal dollars.

So, is it okay for Bush to spend millions but Congressman Walz shouldn’t try to help people in our state ?

So, if funding may be a good idea for chemical dependency programs, are there any wasteful “pork-barrel” programs that should be eliminated ?
Of, course.
With all those earmarks in the DOD authorization, surely some programs should be questioned.

How about eliminating funding COMIC BOOKS ?

That’s right … the US Government is currently requesting bids - M68450-08-Q-0021 : The dollar value of the award is not anticipated to exceed $2,400,000.00. The resulting award will be a Firm Fixed Price contract. The detailed specifications for the twelve (12) issues of 6th Brigade Comic Book series are as follows: Requesting the design, production and distribution of 12 issues of 60,000 comic books per issue for a total of 720,000 comic books of the 6th Brigade Comic Book series to highlight the professionalism of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) and to enhance the public perception of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) as a capable, well-trained, and professional fighting force IAW Information Operations Objectives as outline in the Multi National Force West Operation Order MNF-W (OPORD) dated September 2007.
That's right, folks ... $2.4 million for COMIC BOOKS !

How long have we been in Iraq … and has our success been delayed because the Comic Books haven’t conveyed the proper message ?

It is commonly accepted that the resolution in Iraq is not a military solution but an economic and political solution. When former First District Congressman Gil Gutknecht returned from his only visit to Iraq, he said the key was economic and the need to get jobs for Iraqis.
So, if Comic Books are the key, why don’t the Iraqis produce them ?
Frankly, Americans don’t know the Iraqi culture much less the language … I suspect more cartoonist have read The Far Side then can read Farsi … or Arabic, Dari, Pashto, or any of the other languages spoken in the region.

Instead of John Mr. Earmark-Free Kline proclaiming a "pork-free diet" why doesn't he scrutinize the Bush budget and comment on the "necessity" of Bush's earmarks.
How hard can that be in a $3 trillion spending plan?
For example, Aircraft and weapons: $45.6 billion, a $4.9 billion increase, which would include purchases of fighter planes such as the F-22A. The F-22 was originally designed as an air superiority fighter for use against the Soviet Air Force. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) sent a 13-page letter on June 20, 2006 to then-House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman C.W. (Bill) Young urging Congress to stop funding this program due to its high cost and the fact that the aircraft is out of date. The GAO said, "DOD has not demonstrated the need or value for making further investments in the F-22A program." The GAO also noted that the F-22s "are not sufficient to be effective in the current and future national security environment." There are 22 test F-35 aircrafts that are more modern, effective, and cheaper. In 2003, Popular Science reported the F-22 had a price tag of $120 million each while the F-35 cost $35 million. In June 2006, the GAO report raised the F-22's numbers, concluding that the multi-year contract would drive per-plane costs up to $183 million from $166 million.

Sadly, Bush’s FY2009 does not adequately fund the on-going Global War on Terror … and before they authorize another supplemental spending bill, Congress first needs to look at other DOD spending.

The Republicans loudly protesting “earmarks” is strictly an election-year ploy when they --and the Democrats-- need to take a serious look all spending.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Steve Sarvi will be a great challenger for Kline.
He knows the military and will work to cut unnecessary spending while making sure Minnesota tax dollars are returned home.